If you’re looking for the perfect back-to-basics destination to immerse yourself in sanctuary nature and forget the world, then look no further than Butterfly Valley in Fethiye district located in the Muğla Province of Turkey. This little corner of the Turquoise Coast is one of Turkey’s hidden gems and the country’s best-kept secret – and let’s hope it stays that way!
The Turquoise Coast of Turkey
Southwest Turkey is well known for its glorious beaches, dramatic cliffs and mountains and laid-back ambiance. However, most visitors to this glorious region stick to the resorts of Fethiye, Kas and Kalkan, where holidaymakers can bathe in luxury, surrounded by restaurants, shops, swimming pools and stylish villas.
For those who are searching for something a little more stripped back, connected to nature, and away from the crowds, the Butterfly Valley in Turkey is the ultimate destination.
This lush, green valley is nestled in a natural amphitheatre of steep mountains, fed by the gushing waterfalls that cascade from the top of the cliffs. It boasts a white, sandy beach, dense forest, and yes – you guessed it – almost 100 species of butterflies!
These beautiful insects are attracted by the trees and flowers that grow in the valley floor, and in season, hundreds of thousands of tiny winged creatures are found fluttering through the forest.
Getting in and Out of Butterfly Valley
Butterfly Valley is so cut off from the rest of the world that there are only two routes in: by foot, or by boat. The hike down to the valley is a spectacular one, but involves a tricky descent through the steep cliffs – although there are helpful climbing ropes in place, it is not easy to attempt with luggage! Like most other travellers, I opted for the sea route – which, incidentally, offers the perfect position for snapping a brilliant picture of the cove from the water!
Boats leave from the nearby resort of Oludeniz – but don’t be fooled by the dozens of touts attempting to flog boat tours. These trips are expensive, and leave you only a short time to explore the valley itself. Head past the touts and grab the Butterfly Valley ferry instead – it’s much cheaper (30TL per person round trip) and there are several departures per day (9.30am, 1pm, and 5pm). Just head down to the beach at Oludeniz and you’ll see the ferry shack.
Staying in the Valley: Back to Basics
Accommodation in Butterfly Valley is run by the wonderful Anatolia Tourism Development Cooperative, in line with a strong ethos and mission to protect this wonderful natural habitat. Nature is the priority here, and the Cooperative is determined not to allow mass tourism to damage the flora and fauna. Fruit and vegetables are grown naturally in the valley, construction is extremely limited, and there is very little electricity (except what is necessary to power the small kitchen).
As a result, rooms are very basic, consisting of simple wooden huts and shared washing facilities. If you’re not keen on the huts, you can easily rent a tent from the friendly staff who run the shack-bar or simply sleep on the beach under the stars!
Breakfast and dinner are included in the cost of the stay, and simple snacks can be purchased during the day. Food is served all together on long picnic tables and benches, creating a family atmosphere, and the meals are quite simply delicious. Even with limited resources, the staff here manage to rustle up wholesome, delicious Turkish meals that are guaranteed to leave you satisfied! Butterfly Valley is vegetarian and vegan-friendly, but every few days there are excellent barbeques on the beach where you can grill chicken and kebabs over an open fire.
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Chasing Butterflies in Fethiye
Butterfly Valley is known for… well, its butterflies – but these fluttering creatures can be elusive. The increase in boat traffic to the valley has scared some creatures away, driving them further up the valley, and so you may have to work a little harder to track them down, especially out of season. The natural protection offered by the tall cliffs that encircle the valley has provided space for large colonies of butterflies to flourish, making sure they are well fed by the local flowers (especially lavender). The valley is sheltered from the sea wind, sunny, and yet isn’t too hot, creating a fertile micro-climate that has allowed rare species such as the Jersey Tiger Butterfly to breed here.
The best time for butterfly spotting is first thing in the morning before the noise from travellers and boats scare the butterflies into hiding. These creatures are very sensitive to noise, and so you may have to be still and silent in order to catch a glimpse. If you’re having trouble finding the clouds of butterflies that you were expecting, check out the butterfly cave next to the waterfall, where many of these fragile, beautiful creatures take refuge.
Waterfalls are the second main attraction of Butterfly Valley, and most visitors like to spend a day scrambling up and down the steep cliffs to see the beautiful cascades that hurtle down from the cliffs. Be warned – some of these trails can be very slippery, and so you need to be prepared to scramble and take sturdy shoes. If you’re a slightly less confident climber, you can always ask a guide at the beach to show you the best paths and easier routes.
An Ideal Place to Retreat From the World
Butterfly Valley really is a back-to-basics retreat – a hippie paradise where you won’t find cellphones or laptops. There is very little electricity on the island, and what little of it is used for the shack-bar, so it’s best to embrace the wildness and enjoy the technology detox. Spend nights round the campfire instead of glued to your phone screen, and you’ll meet people and hear stories that you never expected.
Butterfly Valley is a place to reconnect with nature and with yourself. In just a few days here I felt thoroughly detoxed, energized, and more aware of my body and its natural rhythms. This beautiful place is not just a sanctuary for butterflies, it’s a paradise for weary travellers as well!